Gone in 60 seconds: keyless car thefts on the rise

Starting a car ignition by pressing a button

Car thieves can steal a car in the blink of an eye, here’s how to deter them.

Keyless cars at risk

Owners of keyless vehicles were twice as likely to make a theft claim as those with non-keyless cars, according to claims figures from 2020-22 Footnote [1]. Keyless entry was also found, in a separate study, to be the most common way for thieves to break into vehicles in England and Wales, accounting for more than a third (36%) of break ins.Footnote [2]

But why are we seeing his trend? Drivers are gradually turning their back on traditional protection devices, like steering locks, in favour of electronic methods. However, thieves are finding ways to intercept and manipulate the electronic signals used in modern protection methods, putting keyless cars at risk.

Night and day

While vehicles are more likely to be taken at night Footnote [3], the number of incidents where vehicles were actually taken in the dark – not just broken into – is falling, suggesting thieves are becoming more daring during the day. 65% of vehicles were stolen during darkness, compared to 77% in the previous year, while the vast majority (73%) of vehicles were taken from people’s homes.

Old-school security wins

Sometimes old-fashioned anti-theft methods are still worth trying – we don’t mean surrounding your garage with a moat or protecting your vehicle with a flock of geese – a steering wheel or foot pedal lock will do the trick. These simple devices will not only make it harder for thieves to steal your vehicle but also work as excellent visible theft deterrents, encouraging thieves to think twice. Leave the geese out of it.

Where you park your car can also make a huge difference. If you’re able to, we recommend parking it in a locked garage or secure area. Our research found just 34% of motorists with a garage always store their car in it. Footnote [4] If you don’t have a garage or are parking away from home then try and park your vehicle in a busy, well-lit area. If the worst should happen, your car insurance will cover you if your locked car is stolen or broken into.

And do always remember to lock your car, by the way, no matter where you park.

Here’s some more tips on avoiding vehicle theft:

  • Keep your keys in a signal blocking pouch, container or box. These devices help prevent signals from your keys being intercepted and manipulated by thieves.
  • Fit a vehicle tracking system. Think about fitting your own vehicle tracking device, even if you have one pre-installed.
  • Don’t leave anything in your vehicle. Anything worth stealing makes your vehicle more attractive to thieves. If you must store something in your vehicle for a short period, make sure it’s out of sight.
  • Consider using immobilisers. Immobilisers prevent the engine from starting without a correct key or fob. All new cars sold in England and Wales since October 1998 will have immobilisers installed already but if you have an older car, it may be worth considering one.
  • Never leave the keys in the ignition. Thieves work fast – your vehicle could be gone in 60 seconds. Also think about where you keep your car keys – don’t store them in the garage or near your front or back door.
  • Use a steering wheel lock. These bright yellow locks can be very effective at encouraging thieves to move on to an easier target. You can also fit security devices to your clutch and gear stick to make things even more difficult for criminals.

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